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No Obligation on Muslim In-Laws to maintain Widowed Daughters-in-Law: Calcutta HC

Meera Emmanuel

The High Court of Calcutta has held that a Muslim father-in-law has no obligation to maintain his widowed daughter-in-law in cases arising under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act (DV Act), 2005.

Justice Md. Mumtaz Khan reiterated this position while disposing a revision petition preferred before the Court.

The case has its genesis in an application filed by the petitioner under Section 12 of the DV Act against her in-laws before the Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate at Sealdah.

The petitioner submitted that she was forced outside her matrimonial home owing to the cruelty meted out by the opposite parties. It was argued that her father-in-law earned a monthly income of Rs 50,000 from a joint family business that he ran following the death of her husband. The petitioner on the other hand had no independent source of income.

For these reasons, the Magistrate allowed interim monetary relief in favour of the petitioner in 2016. The husband of the petitioner had presumably passed away at the time of issuing the said order. Accordingly, the petitioner’s father-in-law was directed to pay Rs 2,500 per month to the petitioner under Section 20 (d) of the DV Act.

Seeking to assail the order, the father-in-law preferred an appeal before the First Court of the Additional Sessions Judge. It was the case of the father-in-law/opposite party that, contrary to the claims of the petitioner, the father-in-law was retired and had no independent source of income. The claim made that he ran a joint family business with the deceased husband of the petitioner was also denied.

The appeal was allowed and the impugned interim order was set aside. Aggrieved by this order, the daughter-in-law then filed a revision petition against the same before the Calcutta High Court.

In addition to factual submissions, the counsel for the opposite party submitted that the Mohammedan law, which governed the parties, did not impose any obligation on the father-in-law to maintain his widowed daughter-in-law,  This was emphasised in the case of Mahomed Abdul Aziz Hidayat v Khairunissa Abdul GaniTherefore, the Additional District and Sessions Judge was justified in setting aside the order for interim maintenance.

The primary question before the High Court was whether the father-in-law had any obligation to maintain the widow of his sonThe Court answered this question in the negative on a combined reading of Muslim Personal Law and Section 36 of the DV Act.

The Court agreed with the opposing parties that Mohammedan law does not provide for any such obligation, as gauged from the following extract in the Mahomed Abdul Aziz Hidayat case,

The principles with regard to maintenance under the Muhamadan Law are fairly well settled, and the main principle is, as is to be found in Mulla’s Muhamadan Law, p. 286 and Mulla relies upon the statement of law in Baillie’s Digest of Muhamadan Law at p. 467, that a person is liable to maintain another when that person could be the heir of the person whom he is called upon to maintain. In this case the father-in-law could never be the heir of his daughter-in-law, and therefore on that principle there is no obligation to maintain the widow of his son.”

Further, Section 36 of the DV Act provides that the provisions of the Act shall be in addition to, and not in derogation of the provisions of any other law, for the time being in force. This position was reinforced in the case of and Mrs Nanadita Sarkar Nee Sen v Sri Tilak Sarkar and Ors. In this case, the concept of Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956 was taken into consideration vis a vis the provisions of DV Act.

Hence the impugned order setting aside the order of interim maintenance was upheld. The trial court was ordered to dispose the application made under Section 12 of the DV Act expeditiously on merits.

Read Judgment below.

Calcutta-High-Court-Muslim-Maintenance-Law.pdf
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